As far as I know origin stories are unique to comic books. There could be an argument that the gods and heros of old had origin stories but in the modern entertainment world comics, comic book derived movies, TV shows, and books are the main home of the origin story. Usually super-heros have special powers and skills. Their origin is the tale of how they acquired those abilities so a new comic book series will normally start with an origin story.

The problem I have with origin stories is that they are generally pretty boring. There is little variety to them. They are all transformation stories. A guy was one thing, something happens and now he is another. That is the overriding theme to every origin story. They do break down into a few flavors after that. There is 1) guy doesn’t have powers, guy has accident, guy now has powers. 2) someone or thing kills someone guy loves, guy goes out and trains or gets powers, guy kicks ass. 3) guy gets snatched or recruited by someone (good or evil), guy gets experimented on or put through a process, guy gets powers. Not a lot of variety.

Stan Lee always kept his origin stories short. Here are some page lengths for you: Fantastic Four 13 pages, Hulk 6 pages (though part of a 24 page story), Spider-Man 11 pages, Thor 11 pages, Doctor Strange 8 pages, Iron Man 13 pages, X-Men 23 pages, and Daredevil 23 pages. Stan usually got the origins over with quickly and went on to the adventures. Even his full issue (23 page) origin stories were part of an adventure. I think he knew that origin stories were boring. The interesting things start after the guy gets his powers. The reason people read super-hero stories is because of the super powers. A super-hero without his powers is boring. There are some very good comics about everyday people with no super powers. I read more of them than I do super-hero stories. So if you are going to give me a super-hero story there better be adventure, fights and special powers and skills in them. Super-heros can’t compete on a human interest level will Palookaville, Love and Rockets, Age of Bronze, Stray Bullets, Berlin, Eightball, Hate, Finder or any comics that do the human interest thing full time.

I bring this topic up because of one of the comics I bought this week: Rokkin 1 by Andy Hartnell, Nick Bradshaw, and Jim Charalampidis. It is not a bad comic, the art is nice and the script okay. The problem is the plot. Since it says “1st Barbaric Issue” on the cover I assume it is a Conan the Barbarian type of comic but I couldn’t tell by reading it. Conan has no origin. He just came out of the hills as a young man to make his way in the world and have adventures. Not Rokkin. He has an origin. I think it falls under category 2) someone or thing kills someone guy loves, guy goes out and trains or gets powers, guy kicks ass. I’m not sure because the origin story isn’t even over yet and there is no adventure going on. Welcome to 21st century comics.

Longer origin stories have been a trend for a while. When Marvel relaunched Spider-Man as Ultimate Spider-Man they turned Stan and Steve’s 11 page story into six whole issues. A lot of people like all of the extra “detail” in these long origin stories but I find them dull. I want an adventure. That’s what I tuned in for. I don’t like the predictable and origin stories are the most predictable of all stories.

In Rokkin 1 page one we have Rokkin bound in chains and falling into deep water (the ocean?) introducing us to his origin by way of narration. This is followed by a very pretty but pointless (story wise) two page splash. Then we have 12 pages of Rokkin (he’s a butcher) living his idyllic life before he loses his loved one. To be fair he and a few other guys did fight a monster for a couple of page but it seemed unrelated to the story. In the last six pages we see his life ruined by some evil invading army that kills his wife and enslaves him. End of issue. A comic killed by an origin story.

I hate to pick on Rokkin for a trend that it is merely a follower of. It is just the latest example I have found. Six issues from now Rokkin might be a really good book. The people who make it are certainly talented but I’ll never buy issue two because this boring origin story will keep me away.

Even people who liked the six issue Ultimate Spider-Man origin story liked it because it was Spidey. He’s a character they already knew and liked. I doubt many people are going to sit still for a long origin story about a new character. Comic book companies should take a lesson from Stan Lee and keep the origins short. Some new books might have a better chance of success that way.